Lazio determined to shoot down Juventus’ treble hopes
Juventus generally go into every game they play as strong favourites. In the Coppa Italia final against Lazio, however, they will face one of the most exciting and entertaining sides Italy has to offer
Ahead of their game against Fiorentina last Saturday, Lazio sat seven points short of Champions League qualification, but assured of a Europa League place, and their team selection against the Viola indicated they had all but given up on Serie A this term.
However, despite an all conquering Juventus team to face in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday night, it was also a clear sign that the Biancocelesti also feel positive about their chances of securing a first major trophy in four years against the Bianconeri.
Captain Lucas Biglia, Ciro Immobile, Dusan Basta, Senad Lulic and Felipe Anderson all started on the bench in Florence – Immobile and Anderson ironically entering the fray shortly before two quick fire Fiorentina goals – but will no doubt be waiting patiently on the Stadio Olimpico turf when the referee’s whistle signals kick-off midweek.
That the match takes place at their home in the nation’s capital is certainly a welcome advantage for the Aquile – winning 12 of 18 Serie A fixtures in Rome – although they have also been entertaining supporters up and down the peninsula this season.
Simone Inzaghi’s men have netted 20 times in their last five matches since drawing a blank during defeat to fellow goalscoring machine Napoli in the capital on 15 April, and will certainly test the resolve of a legendary Old Lady rearguard.
Even with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini expected to be shielding second-choice goalkeeper Neto, Immobile and co will be confident of breaching a defence that has conceded just 26 Serie A goals this term.
However, despite that miserly total and a heroic defensive display to shutout Barcelona twice in recent weeks, Juventus have failed to keep a cleansheet in Serie A in the last five matches – and conceding three in the Olimpico to Roma on Sunday will be an excellent incentive for Lazio.
With a freshness in their legs from the limited minutes at the Artemio Franchi at the weekend, the Biancocelesti will look to exploit the energy and movement of Anderson, Immobile and Keita Balde in attack and support play of starlet Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
As the Old Lady prepare for the final act of a potentially historic treble, it could be former youth striker Immobile that comes back to haunt them in Rome, after once more hitting the heights achieved at Torino in 2013-14 after a frustrating two years spread across Germany, Spain and another loan spell with the Granata.
The 27-year-old has already matched the 22-goal haul that should have seen him spearhead Italy’s 2014 World Cup campaign and has all the tools available to punish his more experienced national teammates to have a first senior medal hanging around his neck come full-time.
While the Italian international has rediscovered his goalscoring touch, he and his teammates will be hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself once more in favour of their opponents. When chasing the treble in two years ago, it was the Aquile who faced them in a rescheduled final due to Champions League final commitments.
Back in 2015, Lazio were again flying high – finishing third – and gave the Bianconeri a torrid time in the final, only for an Alessandro Matri goal to clinch the trophy in the seventh minute of extra-time.
An equally close contest is expected under the floodlights in Rome on Wednesday and there will be few eyebrows raised if Juventus’ treble hopes end a stage earlier than they did last time.